Monday, August 29, 2016

Mr. Wonka made pretty much the best ephemera ever

I suspect that just about everyone from my generation secretly dreamed of finding a golden ticket to a chocolate factory.

RIP, Gene Wilder (born Jerome Silberman), the man who brought Wonka to life and reminded us of Arthur O'Shaughnessy's words in my favorite quote from the film: "We are the the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams."

We'll never question the snozzberries!

Old photo postcard of Brackenhurst Hall in Southwell

This interesting old photo postcard shows a handsome 19th century estate in central England. Across the bottom of the postcard, someone has written, in black ink: "BRACKENHURST HALL, SOUTHWELL, NOTTS." Southwell is the town and "Notts" is short for Nottinghamshire, which is the county.

The lower-left corner of postcard indicates that it was an A.J. (Alfred John) Loughton photograph, and we can go to that modern-day website for an in-depth examination of Brackenhurst Hall's history. It was built in 1828 for the Rev. Thomas Coates Caine and later became home to the Sir William Norton Hicking clan. Around 1948, it was sold and became Brackenhurst College, which focused on agricultural studies; that college was then absorbed into Nottingham Trent University in 1999.1

The back of the postcard is blank except for one line, written in the same hand as the printing on the front. It states: "LIVED HERE FROM MARCH 20TH 1918 TO APRIL 23RD 1918."

According to the Houghton website, Brackenhurst Hall was used as a military hospital during the Great War (July 1914 to November 1918). Various sources say it had 50 to 60 patient beds during the final years of the war. I don't think it's a huge leap to guess that the person who wrote on this postcard was a wounded English soldier who was recuperating at Brackenhurst for a month in the spring of 1918.

But we'll never know for sure. And we'll never know who that staffer or soldier who wrote on this card was.

For more on this topic, check out the Wartime Memories Project's page on hospitals, which includes this excerpt:
The nature of the fighting during the Great War led to a huge number of injured soldiers and the existing Military medical facilities in the United Kingdom were soon overwhelmed. A solution had to be found quickly and many civilian hospitals were turned over to military use, a large number of asylums were also converted to military hospitals, with the asylum patients being sent home, often to unprepared families. ...

With the wide range of serious injuries before faced, hospitals began to specialise in certain types of injury in order to provide the best treatment, with soldiers being sent by train to the relevant hospital. Many large houses and hotels were used as Convalescent Hospitals.

Those being treated wore a blue uniform with a red tie, known as "Hospital Blues", once a solider was deemed fit enough to leave convalescence, he would return to one of the Command Depots for the rehabilitative training after which they would be allocated to a battalion, frequently a different battalion or regiment to that in which he had previously served, as his place would have been taken by another man to maintain numbers.

Those who did not recover sufficiently to return to active service were issued with a Silver War Badge, SWB, to wear on their lapel, this signified that they had completed their war service.

1. At the moment I was writing this post, the home page of Nottingham Trent University featured a large image of old rotary phones, which threw me for a bit of a loop.

Illustrated postcard: "I used to be afraid to go home in the dark"

This vintage postcard has an amusing, and perhaps slightly disturbing, illustration on the front that features a pair of toddlers, a frying pan, an umbrella and a puppy.

I take that back. It's not at all amusing. What the hell is going on here?

There's no date anywhere on the postcard. The publisher initials are SB (which might be Samson Brothers), and the card was printed in America.

Also, and perhaps this unrelated, but there is a circa 1908 song titled "I Used to be Afraid to go Home in the Dark." It was written by Egbert Van Alstyne.

The postcard was addressed to a "Miss Mildred" in Low Point, Illinois. It was sent from Wauseon, Ohio. The note, written in what looks like a child's cursive, states:
"Dear Mildred:
How are you. Why dont any of you folks write. I wish I was down there with you But like it fine out here. Well come out and see us lonesome people in Ohio.
Your Dearest
Friend Pearl"
In Mildred's defense, these locations were more than 300 miles apart, so you can see where a visit might not have been the easiest thing to do more than 100 years ago.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

1906 postcard featuring Stevens High in Lancaster

This L.B. Herr postcard — postmarked way back on March 31, 1906, in both Lancaster (sending postmark) and Marietta (receiving postmark), Pennsylvania1 — features historic Stevens High School in the city of Lancaster. The building, named after Thaddeus Stevens, was designed by architect Cassius Emlen Urban around 1904.2 It served as a high school until 1938 (complete with a large ballroom on the third floor) and then made the transition into an elementary school.

The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, and today it is an apartment complex called the Residences at Stevens School, with 34 units that feature air-conditioning and high-speed internet access. One review on states: "It's like living in a treehouse. The mature landscape offers great shade and perfect picturesque views. The converted school idea is fun, with the original chalkboards still hanging."

The note on the front of the card — this was slightly before you were allowed to put anything but the address on the back — states:
March 30, '06
Dear Mother: I don't know yet when I can get off, so I will find out, also about the coat, then I will write a letter about Tuesday. Hoping you are all well lovingly your Dr. [not even going to try].

1. That's about 3.48 billion seconds ago. A lot can happen in 3.48 billion seconds.
2. Urban also designed many of the buildings for the Hershey Chocolate Company in the early 20th century.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

1970s summer comics nostalgia with Thing and Vision, Episode IX

Is there anyone out there who found their lifelong career thanks to an advertisement in a comic book? I'd love to hear your story. Heaven knows that comic books of yore loved to pitch, in tiny type, careers of all sorts to the readers. Today's dive back into the May 1978 issue of "Marvel Two-in-One" looks at three of the ads that wanted to help people find permanent work (as opposed to part-time first jobs, such as being Gritboy).

The Police Sciences Training Institute of Newport Beach, California, wanted to help you learn law enforcement from scratch:
"Criminal investigation, rules of evidence, fingerprinting, traffic control, court procedures — these are just a few of the fascinating subjects covered in this home-study course that explains everything from arrest procedures to disaster control. Burglary, narcotics, homicide, sex offenders ... learn the methods of the professional law officer."
These advertisements also ran in Popular Mechanics, Ebony and Black Belt magazines at generally the same time. In those, it was just called the Police Sciences Institute (because you paid for your ad by the word).

I'm guessing the "Institute" was a PO Box or perhaps, at best, a single room in a business park. My guess is that, for X dollars, they were willing to sell you a book or series of booklets containing information that you could purchase for less than X dollars elsewhere.

At one point in the early 1980s, there was a Police Sciences Institute based in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Not sure if it was related to this, but it does mention "home study instruction." Here is one of its "diplomas" (with the name removed by me) ...

* * *

If being like Starsky or Hutch wasn't your thing, perhaps you were interested in the great outdoors.

The North American School of Conservation — also, stunningly, based in Newport Beach, California — wanted to help you "Wear the Badge of the Future in Conservation"...
"Don't be chained to desk, share counter or factory machine. Enjoy an outdoor life with the extra rewards of hard muscles, bronzed skin, vibrant good health. Sleep under pines! Catch breakfast from icy streams! Feel like a million and look like it, too! Step-by-step home study program gives you valuable 'know-how' about this exciting outdoor life."
Hey, can real-life conservation officers out there who currently sleep under pines and catch breakfast from icy streams please raise their hands?

WorldCat lists a "North American School of Conservation basic text," authored by Douglas B. Jester and published in 1964. Its three volumes are described as "a correspondence training program covering game management, fish management, forest and park management, soil conservation and employment opportunities." A different edition of the book that's likely from that same series is pictured at right.

Other advertisements for the North American School of Conservation indicate that it existed as early as 1960.

Read about another advertisement for this "school" in this 2009 post from The Amazing Spider-Ads blog.

* * *

This final advertisement is better geared toward the target audience of comic readers, right? If you like reading comics, you might like to someday create comics, like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. The ad simply states:
Make Money at home with simple drawings!! Fun!! Big-Free Book!! Send 35¢ for postage/handling: Cartoon-E. Box 40614, Detroit, MI 48240."
There must be some of those Big-Free Books still floating around out there. It would be great to see one. I"m sure we could devote a whole post to it.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Last chance to get your wanderlust on before Labor Day

There's still time for a short road trip or afternoon drive before school days, Labor Day, county fairs, NFL fantasy drafts and everything being flavored with "pumpkin spice" fully kicks in! Here are a few photos — found and family — to inspire, I hope, your sense of wanderlust. The first photo, shown above, was a found photo with absolutely no description included. So you can leave it to your imagination regarding the location of this picturesque scene. Maybe you'll come across it this weekend, when you aren't even looking for it.

Below is one of my grandmother's vacation snapshots. There's no caption on this one either; I'm guessing it's the United Kingdom in the 1970s.

Up next is one more old snapshot with absolutely no information. These folks seem, though, to be enjoying their leisurely time by the lake.

Finally, here's an old postcard that strong on the wanderlust...

It was published at Mrs. A.H. Hardy's Studio in Warner, New Hampshire (site of the 69th annual Warner Fall Foliage Festival in early October), and mailed to the small town of Bradford, New Hampshire, in 1911.

The cursive note on the postcard states:
Dear Frances:
This is one of the Warner views. I suppose you are enjoying the summer. Can't you come over & see us before you go home? We should be glad to see you. Mrs. Clark.
"Mountain View"

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Postcard: Early image of bridge in Alum Rock Park in California

This sepia-toned postcard was postmarked in May 1915 in San Jose, California. The "Bridge on the Alum Rock Road" was in its infancy when this postcard was created, as it was constructed in 1913 at Alum Rock Park. Now, of course, at more than a century old, it's considered "historic." Here's a modern look...

By Oleg Alexandrov - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The most interesting piece of history regarding Alum Rock Park might be its Alien Rock from the early 20th century. You can read that entertaining tale on Judy Thompson's Alum Rock Park History website.

This postcard originally traveled about 2,000 miles east from San Jose, to its destination in Maquoketa, Iowa. The 101-year-old message states:
"Many thanks for the birthday greeting. This has been a cold windy day — For the last two days have had very high winds. Did lots of damage along the coast. Regards to you all.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Postcard mailed 101 years ago from Albany, Vermont

This scenic (and almost certainly generic) postcard featuring a dirt road was mailed almost exactly 101 years ago — on August 24, 1915 — from Albany, Vermont.1

Albany has always been a small town. It peaked in population around 1860, with 1,200 residents. It had 920 souls in the 1910 census and 941 souls in the 2010 census. The area is described in a straightforward fashion on Wikipedia:
"The town is hilly and uneven. The highest point in town is in the northwestern part of the township, which is cut off from the main chain of the Green Mountains by a brook. Lord's Creek flows north through the eastern part of the township, having several tributaries. There are other minor streams in town. There are also several ponds, the principal of which are Great Hosmer, Hartwell, Page, Heart, and Duck ponds."
The town's original name was Lutterloh and its first road was Bayley-Hazen military road, built in 1779, according to the Orleans Country Historical Society, which also notes a "large amount of smuggling in the area around 1813."

The postcard was mailed to Mrs. Mary E. Clark of Greenville, Maine (about 145 miles to the northeast, as the crow flies), and has the following message:
My dear Mrs. Clark
Your letter came to me about a month ago and I am patiently waiting waiting for some definite date regarding the family of your mother V [?] grandfather — and can you tell me any thing of Moses, (a brother of Stephen) who died in Me [Maine]. Have written Mr. Cummings.
Delia (Darling) Honey
So, they were working on some genealogy, it seems. There was definitely a Delia Darling Honey of Albany, Vermont. According to this website, she died on April 17, 1949, at the age of 101. This is just one tiny piece of all the hard work she did over the decades on her family history.

1. On the afternoon that this card was postmarked, the Philadelphia Phillies lost to the Chicago Cubs, 5-1, in front of 5,000 fans at Baker Bowl in Philadelphia. Bob Fisher had a home run and three RBIs for the Cubs, Possum Whited had two hits for the Phillies, and Philadelphia pinch-hitter Bud Weiser made an out, dropping his season average to .131. (He finished the year with a surge that brought his average to .141.)